At Soulfire Studios there's a sense of magic in the air.
Two lifelike statues of child dancers seem to call to preschoolers, who hug the statues spontaneously. The mural of a castle begs little fingers to spider walk up the winding path to its front door.
Then there's the way tykes enter the dance rooms. Adults use -- ho hum -- a regular door, but children have a secret passage way. Insert the special key in the lower third of the adult's door, and a door within the door is revealed, just the right height for little ones.
What child wouldn't want to take dance lessons here?
Soulfire Studios, 8540 W. Lake Mead Blvd., Suite 110, opened in June. It's the brainchild of Karissa Schantol, Nadia Jaafar and their two business partners, Mary Joe Morgan and Dan Newburn, whose Morgan Newburn Foundation for the Arts works in collaborative effort with the new studio. The newly formed foundation looks to support the arts in various ways and in the future plans to offer music lessons and art training and support cultural arts events, as well as have an outreach arm that goes into schools.
The magic continues inside Soulfire, where the StoryDance program takes little ones on dance adventures using nursery rhymes, fairy tales and superhero adventures.
"We open with a story, but we sneak in tons of technique, too," said Schantol.
The youngsters don costumes over their leotards to further the transformation. StoryDance is for children 20 months to 7 years old.
Jaafar recalled one of the first camps.
"We had 18 Wendys and two Peter Pans," she said of the class. "There was only one boy in the class."
Soulfire isn't just for tots. The studio offers a variety of classes for all ages, including Zumba, Pilates and Candlelight Stretch, as well as many types of dance -- professional ballet, tap, Broadway jazz, belly dance, hip-hop, the list goes on.
The owners said it was a great location, as it was near residential areas of young families. The 5,000-square-foot space was formerly a Hallmark store. Its largest room is 30 feet by 40 feet and has a floating floor, important to help prevent injury to the ballet dancers.
"The floor cost as much as all the other (upgrades)," said Newburn.
One of the instructors is Marcus Bugler, who has danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company in New York City. Having him on staff brings instant credibility to the adult classes, Schantol said, especially those taken by the ballet and professional dance community on the Strip.
"Every time I say his name, it's guaranteed they know of him, guaranteed," said Schantol.
In a bid to be a one-stop shop, Soulfire also offers acting. It has a graphics art department for business cards and promotional items, as well as a photography component for those all-important head shots and arabesque shots for a young dancer's portfolio. A separate room in the back is set up with a full range of professional photography equipment.
"We feel that it takes a dancer to photograph a dancer," Jaafar said. "A dancer knows when a move is coming up, when there's a pause, what the music will be doing."
Meanwhile, it's preparing the next generation of dancers. Mindy Silverman brought her daughter, Sienna Zeemer, 3, to StoryDance's summer camp.
"Every morning, she'd wake up so excited,' " Silverman said. "She'd go, 'Is it time? Is it time?' ... I've never left my child at a facility before, but I totally trust them here. That's a big thing for me."
Yvonne Henderson said she'd been looking for a dance studio and was shopping at the nearby K-9's and Kitty's, when she saw the "opening soon" flier. Now her daughter ducks through the magic door for StoryDance lessons.
"I'm the greatest in the class," Giselle Henderson, 4, said.
For more information about Soulfire Studios, visit soulfirestudios.com or call 207-7685.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-2949.